With a little help: improving kindergarten children’s vocabulary by enhancing the home literacy environment

Abstract

Early linguistic competencies are necessary prerequisites for later reading and writing abilities and thus for a successful school career. Various child and family characteristics have been identified as important predictors of children’s linguistic abilities, such as intelligence or the “home literacy environment” (HLE). Therefore, one way to improve children’s competencies is by enhancing the HLE they live in. Family literacy programs have proven to be successful with this task. However, most interventions used to improve HLE were fairly intensive and costly. In this study a nonintensive intervention procedure was developed to improve both, HLE and linguistic competencies. The sample consisted of 125 German children in their last year of kindergarten (mean child age at the beginning of the study: 5 years, 5 months) and their families who showed an above average socio-economic status. All parents were offered to participate in the intervention, consisting of providing them with relevant information on HLE at one evening meeting and providing an additional individual reading session that introduced them to the concept of dialogic reading. HLE and children’s linguistic competencies were assessed before and after the intervention. Participating and non-participating families did not differ in any of the study variables at the beginning of the study. However, families who participated in the interventions not only improved their HLE, but children in those families also showed greater linguistic competency development when compared with the non-participating group. The results indicate that less intensive interventions can have an impact on home learning environments and children’s linguistic development.

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Correspondence to Frank Niklas.

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Niklas, F., Schneider, W. With a little help: improving kindergarten children’s vocabulary by enhancing the home literacy environment. Read Writ 28, 491–508 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-014-9534-z

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Keywords

  • Home literacy environment (HLE)
  • Non-intensive intervention
  • Family literacy programs
  • Linguistic competencies
  • Pre-school children